Less frigid temperatures than a typical north country winter have not diminished the need for the Home Energy Assistance Program.
Were getting lots of calls for HEAP in spite of the mild weather. The stories are compelling. Theres often no heat in the house, said Christopher R. Rediehs, St. Lawrence County social services commissioner. Weve exceeded payments of $5 million already. Last winter, we spent more than $11 million. Were only now into February.
By this time last year, the county had spent $7,418,073, compared to this years payments of $5,006,501, but the difference is tied to a decrease in benefits and a delay in the startup of both the regular and emergency programs.
As of Wednesday, Lewis County had disbursed $955,864 in regular HEAP payments to 2,434 households, $306,910 in emergency HEAP payments to 587 households and $16,310 for eight cases of emergency equipment repair or replacements.
Stacy L. Alvord, Lewis County DSS commissioner, said the number of HEAP recipients is roughly the same as in prior years, but the monetary amount is a little less owing to smaller allocations from the federal government.
Were not able to provide as much support as we have, she said.
From Oct. 1 to the beginning of February, Jefferson County spent $2,348,293 on HEAP and $543,155 on emergency HEAP.
Federal funding for the pro From Oct. 1 to the beginning of February, Jefferson County spent $2,348,293 on HEAP and $543,155 on emergency HEAP.
Federal funding for the program in New York dropped this year from $534.4 million to $250 million and the period during which payments will be available was shortened by two-and-a-half months. However, Mr. Rediehs said, the federal government is expected to release additional money for the program.
Im not sure what the state is going to get yet, he said. All of these things have yet to be determined.
Calls for assistance to Helping Hands, which assists the needy in the greater Potsdam area, are about the same as in years past, said Director Thomas J. Chapple.
With the mild winter and cut in HEAP, its kind of equaled out, he said.
Helping Hands, an organization sponsored by area churches and volunteers, tries to fill the gap when HEAP cannot. It has been helping those who burn wood with donated cords but refers people who need assistance with fuel oil to Citizens Energy, a nonprofit organization founded by former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II that provides discounted and free home heating services.
Theyre providing 100 gallons of fuel oil per household per year. That is the most anyones doing, Mr. Chapple said. Theyve been processing many orders. People have just got to keep calling and calling to get through.
Mr. Chapple said he would happily explain how his organization is set up to anyone who wants to start a similar helping group but has had to turn people away who need assistance from outside the area surrounding Potsdam.
Wed be overwhelmed, he said.
Times staff writers Steve Virkler and Brian Amaral contributed to this report.
On the Net: www.citizensenergy.com